HFEA allow PGD for HLA tissue typing
Dr. Kirsty Horsey, Progress Educational Trust
22 July 2004

[BioNews, London] The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has decided that no distinction should be between the cases of the Hashmi family and the Whitaker family: that preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) for the sole purpose of tissue typing should be allowed. The news gives hope to many families who may now be able to treat affected children and has been welcomed by professionals in the field.

Histocompatibility Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) tissue typing of embryos, usually at the 8 cell stage, enables an embryo to be selected as a donor match for an existing sibling suffering from a disease curable by transplant. When the donor child is born, cells from the umbilical cord are used to treat the affected sibling. Previously, HLA tissue typing was only allowed when PGD would also be used to test for a genetic condition, the procedure requested by the Hashmis.

Suzi Leather, who chairs the HFEA, said, 'Our review of available evidence does not indicate that the embryo biopsy procedure disadvantages resulting babies... risks associated with sibling to sibling stem cell donation are low'. The authority stressed that any application to perform the procedure would need to be accompanied by evidence from the clinical team treating the sick child. Only if all other alternatives, such as finding existing matches in family or cord banks, were exhausted would permission be given for HLA tissue typing PGD.

The British Medical Association and the British Fertility Society (BFS) have both welcomed the news. Professor Alison Murdoch, chair of the BFS, said, 'this is the hardest decision some families ever have to make. It is important that the views and interests of the patients are always put first. Since it is their families that live with the consequences of these decisions, it is right that their views take priority'.

Predictably, the pro-life lobby has been less than impressed. Josephine Quintavalle, of Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said, 'they are making it up as they go along. They are making decisions without public consultation'. She added, 'we'll see you [HFEA] in court'.

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© Copyright 2008 Progress Educational Trust

Reproduced from BioNews with permission, a web- and email-based source of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and human genetics, published by Progress Educational Trust.

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